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"The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened." ESV.

  1. Why this hardening took place is, I think, explained in Romans 11:11 "through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles".

What I ask is how did it happen? e.g:

  1. When did this hardening start and when did it finish, or will finish?

  2. Is this hardening God stopping people from believing or just not giving faith in the first place? If "eporothesan" means "to cover with a thick skin" thus causing a loss of sensation, would it be going too far to say that the loss of sensation implied that there had been sensation previously?

  3. Is this hardening the cause or effect of their rejecting faith?

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Doing a search of the bible for references to "hardening", reveals that most hits are references to "hardening the heart" or "hardening the neck", both of which are expressions about the "resolve to pursue one's inclinations".

When God hardens a person's heart He simply gives them up to their inclinations. That is, He stops trying to turn them around. Of course, God knows before hand that a person will not turn around -- like Pharaoh, but attempting to turn them around will bear fruit in others who see and do turn.

2But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
3Therefore will he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth: then the remnant of his brethren shall return unto the children of Israel. 4And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God; and they shall abide: for now shall he be great unto the ends of the earth.

Micah 5:2-4 (KJV)

God "gives people up", i.e. stops trying to turn them around, when He can see no further fruit will come of His labour.

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  • I think this misses the truth. God doesn't 'give up', He doesn't 'stop trying', He delays or postpones. When God plants a seed of redemption, it may take ages for it to grow. He doesn't plant without expecting fruit eventually. – user48152 Sep 5 '20 at 0:13
  • When you say, He doesn't plant without expecting fruit eventually, you have just reiterated the point I have made. It is clear that God "doesn't plant", i.e. He "stops planting" when there is no expectation of fruit. – enegue Sep 5 '20 at 0:27
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Excellent question!

First, let's address the translation: The root word πωρόω simply means "to make callous". It is figuratively applied to a hardened heart or blinded mind. The prefix επ- can mean (up)on, to, in addition to, against, in(to) or over.

What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (Rom 11:7)

I think "blinded" is the best translation for FIVE good reasons:

  1. Depending on the figurative context, πωρόω can be rendered "to make blind or dim"

See at Job 17:7

Mine eye also is dim by reason of sorrow, and all my members are as a shadow.

Greek OT: πεπωρωνται γαρ απο οργης οι οφθαλμοι μου πεπολιορκημαι μεγαλως υπο παντων

And 2 Cor 3:14

But their minds were blinded (επωρωθη): for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.

"Hardened" simply does not fit this context!

This type of "Blindness of the mind" is often a figurative way of implying a lack of perceiving the truth:

And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: (Mat 13:14)

Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness (πωρωσιν) of their heart:(Eph 4:18)

  1. It better fits the immediate context:

What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.(Rom 11:7-10)

  1. It was consistently translated as "blinded" in early translations Pershitta Rom 11:7 Pershitta enter image description here

Latin

quid ergo quod quaerebat Israhel hoc non est consecutus electio autem consecuta est ceteri vero excaecati sunt (Rom 11:7)

excaeco:

  • to blind completely, to confuse, to hide, to obscure
  • to dull, to dim
  • to block channel
  • to de-eye plant
  1. Early Church Father agree:

Rom 11:7 is not quoted by any Church Fathers but 2 Cor 3:14 is refered to by Tertilian in Book 5 of his treatise: Against Marcion, in a chapter called: The Second Epistle to the Corinthians. The Creator the Father of Mercies. Shown to Be Such in the Old Testament, and also in Christ. The Newness of the New Testament. The Veil of Obdurate Blindness upon Israel, Not Reprehensible on Marcion’s Principles. The Jews Guilty in Rejecting the Christ of the Creator. Satan, the God of This World. The Treasure in Earthen Vessels Explained Against Marcion. The Creator’s Relation to These Vessels, i.e., Our Bodies.

He alludes to Moses’ veil, covered with which “his face could not be stedfastly seen by the children of Israel.” Since he did this to maintain the superiority of the glory of the New Testament, which is permanent in its glory, over that of the Old, “which was to be done away,” this fact gives support to my belief which exalts the Gospel above the law and you must look well to it that it does not even more than this. For only there is superiority possible where was previously the thing over which superiority can be affirmed. But then he says, “But their minds were blinded” *(he writes in Latin and uses excaecavit *) - of the world; certainly not the Creator’s mind, but the minds of the people which are in the world. Of Israel he says, Even unto this day the same veil is upon their heart;” showing that the veil which was on the face of Moses was a figure of the veil which is on the heart of the nation still; because even now Moses is not seen by them in heart, just as he was not then seen by them in eye.

  1. The hardening in Romans 9:18 is not the same sense as in Romans 11.

It is not the same Greek word: Romans 9 uses σκληρυνει (to render stubborn) is about individual response to God as God works it in them. Paul has been addressing the Jew up until this point but from Romans 9:27 onwards he is addressing Israel, the collective noun, made up of those under the Spirit of Slumber, who has not been shown the individual mercy. This blindness in Chapter 11 is not a judgment on individuals but on the Nation.

Why is this Translation important? Because it is the interpretation of the prophecies that Paul is applying.

What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. (Rom 11:7-10)

For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered. And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid. Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us? Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding? Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest? And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. (Isa 29:10-19)

They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. Let their table become a snare before them: and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, that they see not; and make their loins continually to shake. Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them. Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents. For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded. Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous. But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high. I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the LORD better than an ox or bullock that hath horns and hoofs. The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God. For the LORD heareth the poor, and despiseth not his prisoners. Let the heaven and earth praise him, the seas, and every thing that moveth therein. For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possession. The seed also of his servants shall inherit it: and they that love his name shall dwell therein. (Psa 69:21-36)

A few comments before I answer your questions:

Notice:

Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

I am not sure if OP recognised that Paul is specifically addressing the Nation of Israel. The patternis the same for the Nation as for Individuals, but its important to understand what Paul is saying here about the Nation of Israel.

Not every member of Israel, did not obtain what they seek, but the nation as a whole did not. Paul's point right before this is that God has NOT cast away his people because He is an example of an elect Israelite, and just like in Elijah's time and Paul's, in every generation God has a remnant of Israel that he saves by Grace. The REST are blinded.

  1. Why is this blinding taking place?

Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.(Rom 1:21)

From the Prophesies:

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: (Isa 29:13)

For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded. (Psa 69:26)

So the blindeness is for a just/righteous reason but with the divine purpose:

For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. (Rom 11:30-31)

  1. When did this blinding start and when did it finish, or will finish? Individually: When Satan deceived Eve and trusted him above God and when Adam obeyed his wife rather than God...and for every individual who "when they knew God worshipped him not as God".

For the nation of Israel, when they did not come up into the Mountain and

Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.(2Co 3:13-15)

When will it finish:

Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. (2Co 3:16)

For individuals is happens when they call on the name of the Lord...

For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.(Rom 11:25)

For Israel, it happens when the Kingdom has been preached as a witness to every nation, and when the last of the Gentile elect has come into the Kingdom. This will probably happen in the Day of the Lord for:

"in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel." (Isa 29:18)

  1. Is this blinding God stopping people from believing or just not giving faith in the first place?

This Blinding Paul is speaking of here (Rom 11:7) is a curse on Israel for the reasons mentions mentioned in the two prophecies. It is God's just punishment but God gives sight (faith) according to the election of grace.

And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Mat 13:10-15)

Notice blindness exists already in ALL individuals including the disciples, the fulfilment of the prophecy is that even though they (Israel) hear and see the gospel, they do not hear and see the gospel - they do not believe. If they did see, hear and understand, they would be converted and Jesus should heal them. The difference for the chosen disciples is that they are GIVEN understanding, the rest is not. This is also Paul's point: but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.

  1. Is this Blinding the cause or effect of their rejecting faith? The blinding (inability to see, hear and understand) is the just result (effect) of rejecting natural (and Divine) revelation (Romans 1:21) not the effect of rejecting faith (or the Gospel), the CAUSE of (seeing, hearing and understanding) is the election of grace.

Individuals: God reveals himself > Man rejects the revelation > Heart is darkened > God shows mercy through election > Seeing, Hearing and understanding

Israel (as a consistent Pattern): God reveals Himself > Israel rejects Him > They are given a spirit of Slumber > God reserves a Remnant > Seeing, Hearing and understanding.

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  • In my question I mention "this hardening" meaning Paul's addressing the particular hardening of Israel through which salvation has come to the Gentiles. Which your answer covers. – C. Stroud Sep 6 '20 at 11:58
  • @C.Stroud: I figured as much from your first point "through which salvation has come to the Gentiles", but the phrase: "Is this hardening God stopping people from believing"... sounded like you made it a bit more general - which of course it could be, but certainly not the Point in this passage. Thanks for the excellent question - in preparing an answer I myself gained huge insight (original answer became a 6 page word document and does not even finally address your questions). – Pieter Rousseau Sep 6 '20 at 12:19
  • @C.Stroud: What was actually striking for me was noticing the focus shift from addressing individual Jews (and there objection to the Gospel to the Gentiles) in Chapters 1-9, to the status and future of "national Israel" in v9:27. Also for the first time really understood why the traditional reformed teaching is not double predestination. Not sure I can formulate it but I think I'm getting to grips with it... – Pieter Rousseau Sep 6 '20 at 12:22
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The analogy of clay may be a good one - but not in the way so far explained.

God as Master potter works all things in men to bring them to repentance.

He does this by allowing His spirit to infiltrate and grow a new understanding and will within a 'chosen' child of God.

So the clay that He is working with must be kept moist to retain and enhance it's pliability.

If the 'moisture' aka Spirit is withdrawn, the clay will harden and become unworkable.

It may at a later stage be 'reclaimed' to allow its life to be restored and once again, become pliable and redeemable.

The question then falls to God choosing when He will call each and every person. It is not a simple matter of calling each one in turn, for He also considers communion within the body highly significant.

Each member working together in harmony is crucial. The entire matter is played out in the analogy of the vine and the natural branches 'cut off' to allow others to be grafted in. But the natural can be grafted in with ease when the timing is right according to God's wisdom and sovereignty.

Rom 11:17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. 19You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. 22Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

When God calls a person, He does so not in a manner of force, but love and grace. The timing for this is His domain and He doesn't want to lose one! He gave us a will and allowed it to be bent (by the devil). He also is able to give us opportunity to 'allow' Him to straighten our will so that it may realign with His.

There may 'seem' to be a sense of rejecting God, or having insufficient faith, but this is untrue. The call and the faith are all of God - a gift no less, and are a process of allowing salvation to take hold of a person - when God sends out His word it will …

Isaiah 55:11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

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The section in which Romans 11 spans at least from Romans 9:1 thru the end of Romans 11. In Chapter 9 he compares humans to clay in God the Potter's hands:

[Rom 9:20-24 NLT] (20) No, don't say that. Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, "Why have you made me like this?" (21) When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn't he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into? (22) In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction. (23) He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory. (24) And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles.

So it seems perfectly reasonable to take his discussion of "hardening" to speak of the "hardening" that clay undergoes in a fire. Paul says that God is under no compulsion to show mercy to anyone and change their hearts, leading them to repentance. He is completely just simply to punish a sinner for their sin, "firing" them as clay is "hardened" by baking it in a hot oven:

[Rom 9:15 NKJV] (15) For He says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion."

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  • The hardening of a clay vessel is, spiritually, exactly the opposite of the case OP is asking about. A vessel can't be used until it is hardened, so it requires fire - spiritual maturity is obtained (among others) through trial by fire. Hardening of the heart, on the other hand, is a spiritually undesirable state, leading to separation from God. – Sir Athos Jun 13 '20 at 10:17
  • Hello Sir and thank you for your response. Please note that the assaying of metal is a different process on a different substance for a different purpose. It isn't appropriate to combine or confuse the two metaphors. – Ruminator Jun 13 '20 at 10:23
  • Your allusion breaks down, for only the good clay ends up being fired in the kiln. The bad clay remains soft and pliable and is re-modelled. – Nigel J Jun 13 '20 at 15:31

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